Yeshua Israel

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Why Jerusalem Matters to You
Why Jerusalem Matters to You










Why Jerusalem Matters to You
by Shani Ferguson

It was the first week of December,  and the days were getting colder. We were busy prepping for the season’s seemingly endless parade of Hanukkah parties when I received an email from the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. It warned U.S. citizens to stay clear of Jerusalem’s Old City area due to potential tensions in the coming week.

An “alert” email like this is not uncommon for us to receive. There are periodic flare ups in Muslim neighborhoods around the country,  and the State Department will issue these warnings as a precaution when they have reason to believe the protests could turn violent. Local Muslims often protest in response to anything from an Israeli raid on a terrorist location to lack of visiting privileges for terrorist prisoners, to rumors that Israel is beginning their plans to build the third temple.

For the military and police, protests are a tense and delicate dance between allowing civil dissent and avoiding riots. Too little presence and the protesters push the limits to see how much provocation and destruction they can get away with; too much authoritarian push back and they’ll see that as the “reason” things must turn violent. All you need is one hot temper, and the protest goes from just chanting about blood in the streets to throwing rocks, burning tires and actual blood in the streets.

I scanned the “alert” email just to note the reason behind the perceived threat of uprising and saw the message about the United States’ planned recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. We had made plans to be near the Old City the day of the declaration. We canceled those plans.


Netanyahu and Trump
America's present support of Israel is greatly appreciated by Israel's government and citizens.


Why Jerusalem Matters to You - Old Jerusalem

Old Jerusalem City,  circa. 1917

How we see it, How they see it

Religious:

As Jews see it, via their historical book of the Bible, 3,000 years ago King David moved the capital of Israel from Shilo to Jerusalem. Joshua had originally established the centrally located town of Shilo as Israel’s capital and home to the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant. The Bible doesn’t really explain why David chose Jerusalem which is about 40 km (25 miles) south of Shilo, but  I’m willing to guess its defensibility, the amazing weather, the beautiful views and it being the location of Mount Moriah (where Abraham proved willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac to God) had something to do with his choice. Both Jewish temples would be built on this mountain and even today,  Jews visit the remains of the outer wall of the Second Temple,  known as the Western Wall,  in order to pray.

As Muslims see it, the Mountain where Abraham was proven willing to offer his son Ishmael (not Isaac) is not in Jerusalem, but Mecca,  Saudi Arabia - conveniently located in the city where Mohammed was born. There’s no actual mention of Jerusalem in the Quran, but Muslims believe Jerusalem is referenced as the “farthest mosque” and that Mohammed visited it one night when he was flown there by a mythical creature.

The main issue with that story is not the mythical creature, but rather the historical discrepancy that the building of the Jerusalem mosque took place decades after Mohammed’s death. Meaning there was no mosque for Mohammed to visit while he was alive.  Jerusalem’s Mufti (the current authority of the Mosque today) explains that in fact the Mosque was there, “3,000 years ago and 30,000 years ago...since the creation of the world.” These types of statements are also made to express the Islamic belief that the Jewish stories of King David,  Solomon and both Temples are categorically false - as part of their belief that Jews have no historical right to Jerusalem. I can believe that Palestinian Arabs today feel passionately about Jerusalem, but it is only because of a false history they have been recently taught in schools. Should they be taught from books written a few 100 years ago, they would continue to treat Jerusalem like the desolate city it was.

In 1,200 years of Islamic control of Jerusalem, no Mid East nation ever attempted to make it their capital. In fact,  no nation in the history of mankind,  save Israel,  has ever made Jerusalem its capital.  When Jordan controlled the Temple Mount between 1948-1967, they paid little attention to the city other than to enforce rules that prohibited Jews (or Christians) from praying at the Temple Mount and Western Wall. Even when Israel captured Jerusalem in 1967 and Jews could finally come pray at the Western Wall, the status quo of Islamic-only worship on the Temple Mount did not change.  To this day, if you attempt to walk the grounds, where the golden dome now stands, and pray to anyone but Allah, you will be promptly removed. Resist,  and you will be arrested.


Jerusalem 1917

jerusalemtoday.jpg



Aerial photos of Jerusalem in 1917 and today show the city's exponential growth since Jews have been allowed to return.



Political:

The religious dynamic is a powerful force behind the political dynamic. If you’ve ever wondered why there’s such a constant flow of condemnations from the U.N towards Israel, it’s as simple as numbers. 32 mostly Muslim member nations don’t even have diplomatic relations with Israel. And while only 97 votes are required to pass a resolution in the U.N. General Assembly, 124 nations fall into the category of Muslim majority, Muslim sympathizing or dictator nations. The third category easily votes against Israel because nations ruled by tyrants tend to be drawn to other nations ruled by tyrants. So, you could imagine why the monarchs and dictators of the Middle East are a more attractive partner than democratic Israel. Thus, without even needing to change a single opinion, there is always a majority to condemn Israel for just about anything.

Abba Eban, one of modern Israel’s founding fathers who spent years as Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., once quipped that if Algeria presented a resolution that the earth was flat and Israel flattened it, the vote would be 128 in favor, 3 opposed and 62 abstentions.


Spiritual:

On a spiritual level, the explanation is much simpler. The God of Israel wants to be worshiped in His Promised Land on His Holy Mountain. The god of this world doesn’t want the God of Israel to be worshiped anywhere - let alone in His favorite spot by the people who bare his name.

This dynamic manifests itself in a variety of ways, political and humanitarian alike. However, the goal is always the same: remove Israel - the people,  the land, the name - from the face of the earth.  But the end goal is not the delegitimization of Israel - it is the delegitimization of God. How legitimate is a God who names Himself after a people He can’t even keep alive in a land He can’t inhabit?

Good for Jews, Good for Christians

Two decades ago, the U.S. Congress voted overwhelmingly to recognize an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there - while allowing the president to postpone the move indefinitely. Despite this past year where the animosity between political parties meant senators refused to agree on the color of the sky just to make a point, they unanimously passed a resolution, once again recognizing an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Still, the final decision would come down to a president who would be willing to take the leap.

While Americans can love or hate President Trump for a number of reasons, Israelis generally only care for American politics so long as it affects them directly. This makes any president who supports Israel’s right to defend herself, build new homes anywhere within her borders and recognize Jerusalem as her capital, a bonafide hero.

By public declaration, 70 years and 7 days after the U.N. declared Israel could become a nation, the U.S. became the first nation on earth to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Politics are always a chess game, and one is often left guessing what is behind certain actions taken by politicians. While the pundits argued back and forth whether the original declaration about Jerusalem made on December 6th, 2017, was just that - a declaration - Trump, in his over-the-top fashion decided to speed up the transition in order to "gift" the embassy move to Israel on its 70th anniversary this May.

Israelis, who are a strange mix of liberal on social issues and yet super-conservative in other areas such as the military and self-defense, are having quite a time trying to figure out what is behind Trump's seemingly unyielding support of Israel. That Evangelical Christians have the ear of the president has not been lost on Israelis - who are generally weary of the bunch. Still, they can't help but be thankful for the Christians clear role in the bold steps being taken by America on the world stage in favor of Israel. This is doing much towards healing the image Christians have had as violent Jew-haters, in Jewish history books.


The reaction was swift and predictable...at least from world leaders. Mid East nations huffed, and European leaders sneered. Turkey stated the declaration crossed a “redline” and threatened to sever diplomatic ties with Israel. This made little sense as Israel had always stated Jerusalem was its capital. It was the U.S. that had made the nuanced change in recognition. The U.N. overwhelmingly condemned the U.S. for its rogue position. The U.S. responded by cutting millions in funding to the U.N. and inviting nations who did not condemn the declaration to a nice dinner party.

Perhaps the most surprising reaction though came from the Arabs in Jerusalem. Other than a few dozen protesters and a targeted stabbing (an occurrence which could take place any day of the week in Jerusalem), Arabs went about their daily business. The day after the declaration, I watched an Arab reporter standing by the gate leading to the Muslim quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. He was strangely honest as he shared into the camera, “Unfortunately, there is no one here protesting.”

The media, as always, was hoping for drama. I saw bits of stories on all the big international news channels. They discussed the few rockets fired from Gaza and captured footage of rock throwers with IDF soldiers responding with tear gas. Again, such happenings are unfortunately not uncommon in Israel. But none of the tension the media described was going on in the streets of Jerusalem. In fact, had you not watched the news, the only way you may have found out about the declaration was if you happened upon clustered groups of Orthodox Jews dancing in the streets and chanting, “God our Father lives; Israel lives!” By the end of the week, the media resorted to quoting “concerned” world leaders and Hamas’ rants about the need to destroy Israel - as if this was a new goal for Hamas inspired by the Jerusalem decree.

The protesting screeches of our spiritual enemy should be of no surprise as his grip weakens over God’s holy mountain. If Israel is the apple of God’s eye, Jerusalem is the apple of Israel’s eye. The center of the center. The core of the core. The physical location where the presence of the only Living God dwelt among men. It is the place where God asked Abraham to offer his only son - and the place where God himself would ultimately offer His. It is the place Yeshua longed for as He cried, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem.” It is the last place His feet touched the earth and the place where He promised He would return. It is holy to God - set apart for the worship of only Him. That is why Jerusalem should matter to you - because it matters to God.

Jerusalem is a fascinating wonder of nature.

While only a few miles across, the western side of the city boasts rolling hills full of trees while the eastern side is a barren land of sand and rocks.  However, even the desert side is a wonder of nature as the mountains descend into the Dead Sea - officially the lowest place on earth. And with a single day’s walk from Jerusalem, you can arrive at the fresh water springs of Ein Gedi which flow year around. If you’ve ever had a chance to visit Jerusalem and then the nearby Ein Gedi springs, you could see how David was able to flee so quickly into the desert to escape his son Absalom. Even the Romans would see this backdoor desert escape as a strategic asset and would build emergency forts for times of trouble.

jerusalem-nature.jpg
Ein Gedi Springs


Update from Kobi and Shani
Kobi and Shani in Jerusalem Studio
We dive into 2018 with our feet running. All the studio equipment is officially paid for (Hallelujah and thank you!) and believing Israeli songwriters and musicians now have access to one of the best studios in the Land.

Original Hebrew worship songs are being recorded weekly and in December, we had “O Holy Night” recorded in Arabic by musicians from Nazareth. In addition, this month we released “Sapphire Skies” - the first song Shani wrote in English 20 years ago.


Shani Ferguson - Sapphire Skies
 
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As we record and release songs throughout the year, we’d love to share them with you. We will be sending the songs out via email and if you aren’t already receiving our emails, encourage you to sign up so you can receive them.

Israel is a land with strong destiny. We will have two main focuses this year as we pursue that destiny. First, to fill the land with songs of Israeli praise through the Israel Worship Initiative and to build up the body of Jewish believers in the land through the Israel Family Initiative. Throughout the year we will update you on specific projects each initiative will have, and trust you will join us in covering these initiatives with your love, generosity and prayers.

Later this month, we are gathering dozens of worship leaders and musicians from all over Israel to network with and minister to them.
If you come from a largely Christian environment, it may be hard to imagine the loneliness of being the only believer in your workplace/neighborhood/school. Since Jewish believers are a tiny percentage of the population, congregations are spread thin across the land and rarely do believers live near each other. This leaves many of the believing communities isolated.

As a part of the Israel Worship Initiative, we are launching the Fellowship of Artists - a network of Psalmists, singers, musicians who will support and encourage each other spiritually and artistically and have a base they can call home in our studio ministry center.

Your generosity allows us to provide practical and spiritual help to the lost - and found sheep of the House of Israel.





Yeshua Israel Ministries is based in Jerusalem, Israel


You can also give via mail. Send check to our U.S. office:

Yeshua Israel
PO Box 270208
Flower Mound, TX 75027-0208


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Ferguson Family 2017
Kobi and Shani Ferguson reside in Jerusalem with their five children.




 
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